Monday, December 6, 2010

Buy this book!

It’s been a long time since I read a romance with as interesting a premise as Alexis Harrington’s Home by Morning. I saw this book on a review site, and the cover art and blurb sucked me in instantly. I downloaded the sample read from Amazon, was so entranced by the story and the strong characterization that I had to buy the book. I read it in a day and a half (okay, I was a vendor at a craft show and read between customers), but when I got home I had to read the rest.
I was not disappointed.

This is a book considered unsaleable by New York publishers, so Ms. Harrington offered it as a Kindle read (and at a very attractive price!) What was the problem? Ms. Harrington chose to set her story during the 1918 Spanish Flu epidemic! (As one whose great aunt perished during this time, I was drawn like steel to a magnet.) I find the period refreshing, fascinating and unique–at least in romance fiction. Here we have a world balancing between tradition and modernism, and with the onset of WWI, a cataclysm that changed the world utterly.

Home by Morning is the story of Dr. Jessica Layton who is enroute from New York to take up a research position at a Seattle hospital and stops off in her hometown of Powell Springs, Oregon...and land smack into the middle of the influenza epidemic. Daughter of the town’s deceased practitioner, Jessica left to study medicine in the East, and remained, leaving behind her childhood love, Cole Braddock. Cole ranches and runs the town’s smithy, and he is courting Jessica’s younger sister Amy.

Jessica is pressed into service since the town is desperate and the new doctor hasn’t yet arrived. But there are conflicts and misunderstandings that make Jess’ position difficult in every way.

The story has three threads that author Harrington skillfully weaves into a cohesive tapestry. And she has created secondary and tertiary characters who are not what they seem. Cole’s brother is near the Argonne, fighting in the trenches, his wife takes care of the ranch, while Cole, his arthritic father and a hired hand ship horses to the front. In between this is the devastation of influenza in the community, the heartbreak of lost lives and the gut-wrenching futility of trying to deal with a disease for which they have no cure. I won’t expose the ending, but it will surprise you. Many times while reading, I had a lump in my throat and tears in my eyes.

Ms. Harrington is a masterful storyteller, using skillful writing, great dialogue and wonderful imagery. This is a must-read book and an informative look into a period in history that seems glossed over. Brava Ms. Harrington for sharing your enormous talent in this superb story. A strong five stars.

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